Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Pros and Cons of Being a New Dad at 40

Well…the day finally arrived. That moment I’d been fearing for months when my forty-year-old self would welcome a brand new baby into the world that I was once again responsible for. And now that she’s here and we have her home, I’ve gained a little perspective. Some of the things I was worried about have been exactly what I feared. Others? Not so much. And…there’ve been a few things come up I hadn’t counted on in the least. So, in honor of sleepless nights and dirty diapers, I present my list of pros and cons regarding having a new baby at a time when I should be focused on my mid-life crisis.

CON: Okay, we are going to get this one out of the way up front. EXHAUSTION!!! It is one thing to deal with late nights and early mornings in your 20’s or even early 30’s when your body is in its prime. It’s a whole new ball game when you’re already losing sleep because of the ailments of age. Here’s a hint: aching hips and lower back pain are only exacerbated when you try to curl up in positions that shouldn’t be attempted by anyone who isn’t a Cirque du Soliel performer. And yet, that is exactly what babies require you to do to keep them quiet at 4:30 in the morning. I still haven’t been able to figure out how my arm ended up so far behind my head that morning not long ago, which led to a desperate call to the chiropracter later that day. Thankfully, she is already sleeping better so hopefully this issue will be short-lived.

PRO: Having a baby this late in life means that as long as you aren’t just getting started with this parenting thing, you now have veritable army at your despotic disposal. When Abby was born 14+ years ago, there was nothing more frustrating than taking that screaming baby who had just pooped for the 4th time in an hour and positioning her on the changing pad, only to realize you forgot to get the wipes. Wouldn’t that have been a good thing to realize before you removed the diaper? Yes, yes it would have. Back then, I was on my own and it usually didn’t end well. But these days? I can sit in my laz-y-boy throne and bark decrees to the minions who rely upon me to eat.

“Braden, bring me the changing pad!”

“Abby, bring the wipes! And grab her pacifier while you’re at it.”

“Logan, throw this diaper away! Don’t give me that face. Do you want an extra week cleaning the kitchen? I didn’t think so.”

CON: At the end of the day, my facist-like tactics only carry me so far. I’m still the one changing the diaper. Granted, Shannon changes a whole lot more of them than me, but still. It is much harder to get myself down on the floor and into position than it used to be. And my gosh, did they all squirm this much?

PRO: I’m getting to catch up on a lot of television shows that I have missed out on because my schedule hasn’t allowed it. Case in point: Modern Family just started showing re-runs on the USA network. I have been told over and over again how funny this show is, but just haven’t found the time to watch it. Well, now, I have hours to spend holding a baby, praying she goes to sleep for real this time. So what is there to do but watch TV. (I know some would argue for reading my scriptures, reading the Ensign, meditating for enlightenment, but…I’m gonna opt for TV most of the time.) And come to find out, Modern Family is about as funny as everyone said it was. Although I do have one observation. I know I’m late to the party on this, but does anyone else think that Sofia Vergara is really just some mad scientist’s clone of Charro from the 1970’s that he kept hidden until 2008 when he chose to release her on a new and unsuspecting generation? If this observation has been made many times before, I apologize. But if it hasn’t…Beware The Love Boat reboot that is coming with perennial guest star…SOFIA VERGARA as April Lopez. (For those with no clue what I’m talking about, Youtube can take care of this for you.)

CON: I can’t tell you how hard it is to bring my other four children to church all by myself while my wife stays home with Maggie. It wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t on the stand and therefore powerless to do anything about behavior that might not be exactly what I would choose to put on display as an example of my parenting philosophies. It’s amazing how quickly they all figured out that if they don’t look my direction during sacrament meeting, they have a perfectly legitimate card to play when I get on to them later. “I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong when I took Braden’s glasses and hurled them across the chapel. Nobody said anything to me.” Nevermind that I probably look like I’m going into anaphylactic shock up on the stand trying to get their attention without drawing any attention to myself.

PRO: Back in the TV realm, I haven’t been able to watch this much football without feelings of guilt in years. I got to watch the entire ASU/Wisconsin game while holding the baby in the hospital. I got to watch a good portion of the Monday nighter a week ago between Denver and Oakland (we did fit Family Home Evening in there as well. Spiritual component and all), again while holding the baby. And Saturday night, I got to watch the entire ASU smackdown of USC while babysitting. It was awesome. I need to get this girl a couple of ASU onesies so that we can get this die-hard fanhood down while her brain is at her most fertile. I’ve already lost Abby to BYU. I don’t want to make that mistake again with my youngest.

CON: Because Maggie can’t go out into public for at least a month, I have had to miss some of my kid’s events. I missed Logan receiving his Wolf badge at pack meeting and I missed seeing him win his soccer game this past Saturday.

PRO: Because Maggie can’t go out into public for at least a month, I have been spared  some of my kid’s events. Take this last Saturday when I didn’t have to go out to a dustbowl-that passes as a soccer field-at noon in the Arizona sun. Instead, I got to hear all about my son’s first win as he excitedly told me about it later. And he wasn’t upset at all that I’d missed it, because he loves Maggie as much as the rest of us and he completely understood that only one parent could be there. Good job, Mom.

CON: She’s a girl. Which means there is a very real chance I need to start preparing for the day when I will have to pay for a wedding at the exact same time I would hope to be preparing for retirement. Or I can just accept that the first item will put the second one off for an additional five years.

PRO: I mean, come on. She’s a perfect little girl who has her daddy wrapped around her finger already.

Maggie

The holidays will be here before you know it. Nothing says, “Merry Christmas loved family member,” than a book centered on a family member dying. THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER is still available wherever LDS books are sold and at the links listed above. It is also available on Kindle for $3.99

 

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Being a Mormon Sports Fan From Arizona Sucks…I Mean, Stinks

The first year I ever really paid attention to sports was the year I fully committed to the Boston Celtics in 1987. (In 1987, every basketball fan between the ages of 11 and 20 committed to either the Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers. Go look at the championships won that decade. There really were no other options.) I should have seen that year as an omen. The year before (the year I didn’t watch basketball because I was still mainly interested in Tonka trucks and hitting my mother’s not-yet-ripe prize plums out of the backyard with my oversized plastic bat) the Celtics had been the most dominant team in professional basketball, by far. The great trio of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish dominated teams and had I been watching as a fan, I could have lived the high life as my beloved Celtics rolled through the playoffs. Instead, I chose to fully buy in the next year. That would be the year that all three of those great players suffered injuries that had them playing at less than their best. Even so, they still managed to make the NBA Finals, but only to be taken out by their most hated rival, the Lakers. That really blew. I had to listen to my friend, Anthony Wright, go on and on about how awesome the Lakers were and…it just blew. To make matters worse, my hero, Larry Bird, never returned to The Finals.

Two years later, I lived and died by the fate of The Arizona Wildcat basketball team led by Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott. For most of the year, they were the number 1 rated team in America. They blew through the first four rounds of the NCAA tournament, but got gobbled up in their Final Four match-up with Oklahoma. I was again devastated. The following year, when I had to listen to the Wildcats lose to the hated Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV over the radio (that shove by Greg Anthony that wasn’t called in the final seconds is still the most egregious no-call I can remember in the history of college basketball) cemented in my brain a truth that has almost universally been accurate. Arizona sports fans are destined to be disappointed.

Now I will address up front the two exceptions that prove the rule. The 1997 Wildcat basketball team and the 2001 Arizona Diamondback baseball team. Yes, both won, bringing a championship to Arizona. But tasting that bit of success only makes the years since all the more depressing. We know how good it feels to be the winner, but with each passing year, those glory days almost begin to act as if they’re mocking us through the years by making us ask the questions: how did Lute Olsen, with all that talent, only win one championship? How did we have Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson and only get one World Series? We should have had some dynasties. Instead, we got to nibble at the feast of good fortune and then we had to step back and stand against the wall while the gluttonous slobs from Boston, New York, Los Angeles and the South Eastern Conference pigged out in front of us. They continue to pig out in front of us. It makes me a little bit ill.

Sometimes being an Arizona sports fan is just mean. How did we not win that Rose Bowl game in 1997? I mean for heaven’s sake, we had it and then we lost it to an Ohio State quarterback who happens to be from where? Mountain Freaking View High School in Mesa, Arizona. Talk about a gut punch.

Or what about the time Steve Nash got bounced over the top of a scorer’s table and somehow two of our best players get suspended for the next game.

Or even worse, what about every season played by the Arizona Cardinals since they arrived 20 some odd years ago. Yes, I know they made the Super Bowl…ONCE. But even then, if we are being honest with ourselves, we know they played in the worst division in football and by all rights, probably shouldn’t have even been in the playoffs. And did they win? No, they lost in one of the most agonizing finishes ever. Just like any good Arizona sports fan should have expected.

It’s reasons like those listed above that I try not to get sucked in. I refuse to root for the hometown teams in pro football or basketball. I try to stay ambivalent about baseball. But at the end of the day, I need my sports fix. So I choose teams that have players that I like regardless of what city they happen to be in. I was an Indianapolis Colts fan for a number of years, but now I root for the Denver Broncos. Why? Peyton Manning.

But even then, the Arizona stink gets transferred. Take last year when the Broncos were the overwhelming favorite to reach the Super Bowl. On second thought, let’s not revisit that, shall we?

To make all of this worse, I’m LDS. Which means I don’t get to watch sports all day whenever I want because I have too many kids, too many responsibilities and too many meetings on a Sunday. I’m not complaining, I’m just stating a fact. Another downside of being an LDS sports fan in Arizona (or probably anywhere) is that I have to listen to that staple that exists in every LDS ward the world over…okay the country over. It’s that group of guys who go on and on about BYU like they actually matter and refuse to acknowledge the far superior teams located right here in the state they live in.

Like I care.

I didn’t grow up in Utah and I don’t give a flying…whatever about the BIG BLUE. Sadly, I have a daughter that is convinced she’s going to go there after high school, which means she’ll likely meet her husband there, which means church won’t be the only place I’ll have to put up with this garbage for the rest of my existence on earth. I only pray that when we get to heaven, we find out God’s team isn’t BYU, but instead, He always had a special place in His heart for those pesky Aggies from Utah State. Now that would be the ultimate in vindication and…Awesomeness!!!

So why am I going on and on about this? Because the dadgum stink struck again this weekend. I had one of those rare aligning of the stars. For reasons we will not speak of, I found myself with a new array of digital cable channels on my big screen. Arizona State, my alma mater and chief culprit in so many of the disappointments over the years, was coming off a big win the week before and was scheduled for a national televised game on one of those high definition channels. I had a wide open afternoon where I could sit on the couch and hold my brand new baby girl and watch a game, uninterrupted. That almost never happens. So how did all of this turn out for me?

Within a very short amount of time, ASU was down 20-0. In disgust, I turned the game off before halftime when the score had swelled to 27-0. I decided to go weed eat my lawn instead. The pain of those little rocks being thrown up into my face was preferable to watching the blood bath taking place in Stanford.

And that pretty much sums up the life of an LDS sports fan who was born and raised in Arizona.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER. If you haven’t bought it, buy it. If you haven’t read it, read it. And if you don’t want to do either? Eh. I’m from Arizona. I’m used to the disappointment.

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Will Someone Please Speak Truth to Power on Healthcare

I was going to wait a few days before tackling this subject. But after a spirited debate yesterday with my state senator at a Chamber of Commerce board meeting and after seeing a spate of facebook postings calling for the defunding of Obamacare, I can’t take it anymore. I have to vent. Please be warned: if you choose to read this, there is probably something here to offend you regardless of your politics. Consider yourself warned.

So what is the real problem when it comes to healthcare? I think it is safe to say that at least 85% of Americans’ concern at the moment is cost. Because the cost of healthcare in this country is completely out of control. Now, another concern that is equally valid is quality. If cost was the only concern, we would elect people who would give us a single-payer system (nationalized healthcare) and be done with it. But many people recognize that the ultimate cost (massive tax increases) and level of quality associated with a single-payer system are not what we really want.

So let’s have a frank discussion on cost. Because right now, no one is having that kind of discussion. Democrats are claiming that Obamacare will ultimately bring down the costs associated with healthcare (which is a blatant lie) and Republicans are choosing to pretend that Obamacare is the whole the reason healthcare costs are out of control to begin with (another blatant lie).

Now, before both sides start chiming in with how wrong I am with my statement above, I kindly invite you to shut up. It is my blog and I will finish my statement. And by the way, when I speak of Democrats and Republicans, I am talking about the politicians, not the rank and file citizens who support either party.

First, we need to address tort reform. There absolutely must be a cap on punitive damages for healthcare related lawsuits. A huge portion of the sticker shock associated with a hospital bill or a doctor bill is related to the amount healthcare institutions have to pay in premiums for malpractice insurance. Passing tort reform that limited punitive damages to $250,000 or even $500,000 per case of malpractice would instantly impact the cost of healthcare. Yet, because it isn’t a sexy topic, it gets lip service during a Republican primary and then goes away entirely when any general election rolls around. What’s most funny about that is; tort reform is the one thing that would lower costs immediately at the moment of its passing.

Now, let’s talk about Obamacare. Right now, the deafening roar on the right is that we need to defund it, NOW!!!

Pardon me for asking a stupid question, but why? Do you think it will lower costs?

“Yes, Ryan. That’s exactly what will happen because Obamacare will crumble under its own weight without the funding to back it up. And did we mention, we need to do it NOW!!!”

I’m sorry, but this is short-sighted, politically-advantageous-to-politicians-only, crap! Answer me this: if you defund Obamacare, how does that get rid of the regulations associated with the law?

“Well…without funding, Obamacare will not be able to…you know…do what Obamacare was designed to do. So it will go away.”

To coin a rude English phrase, Bollocks.

Do you really believe that the fines associated with Obamacare will go away just because you defund it? Do you really believe the IRS (especially in light of recent activity that has been revealed in that agency) will just relinquish all of its newly acquired power just because a few measly dollars didn’t show up? If you honestly believe that, you are out of your freaking mind.

No…let me tell you what will happen. If, somehow, the Republicans are able to defund Obamacare, they will tout it from the highest towers and will begin crafting their campaign commercials for 2014 or 2016 depending on their political aspirations. They may give lip service to getting rid of the rest of law at a later point, but when do you really think that will happen? They have their victory. Political victories are a lot like double indemnity. You can’t run on one twice. So they will have zero motivation to tackle the rest of Obamacare. Meanwhile, the Democrats will begin salivating over the disaster that will ensue when all of the regulations fully hit the fan with no money coming to pay for them. Costs to individuals (ie: voters) will skyrocket even more and Democrats will be able to point to Republicans as the cause. And what is the final answer on all of this?

The next big political battle in healthcare: The Single-Payer System.

Think about it. That’s what most Democrats wanted all along. And from the Republican point of view, what better issue to keep the base in line than the threat of nationalized healthcare. Conservative voters everywhere will flock to the polls to elect that good Republican representative who is the only thing standing between them and a Canadian/English style of healthcare.

It’s hideous. Neither party has any reason politically to stop the train from traveling down the tracks to that point. And so they are collectively ready to tell voters behind their backs, “Screw You!” To them, elections are more important than the issues and pain is a great motivator to get to the ballot box. Politicians only want to delve into an issue until they have their headline. Then they’re pretty much done.

If people who want to see Obamacare go away really want a victory, they need to tell Republican lawmakers that it is repudiation or nothing. We don’t want half-way defunding, we want the law thrown out entirely. Now elected officials will come back with, “But we don’t have the numbers to do that.”

To which the reply is, tell the Tea Party to stop electing morons as Senate candidates during the primaries who then turn around and hose themselves in general elections. Were it not for the imploding candidacies of Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock and Joe Miller, Republicans would control the Senate. Now would that be enough to overturn Obamacare? No, but Republicans would be in a much better position than they are now. But we keep sending up kooks who show themselves for what they are at the most inopportune moments and we keep losing seats we should win. Winning elections is the only way to win issues. And if we really don’t want Obamacare, we need to win elections, not try to find some half-anus approach that only benefits politicians, not realy people.

Now, for the final point.

No one is going to like this. In fact, conservatives will use this issue as a rallying point for elections and to get themselves multiple interviews on Fox News. But if we don’t have a real discussion on this issue, costs are never coming down. EVER!!!

Because of my religious beliefs, I believe human beings have no right to interfere with life when it comes to the issue of abortion because that is the realm of God. Most of the people I associate with in my faith agree with me. But let me ask a question. If we are so concerned with God’s dominion over life at its inception, why are we so adamant about interfering with it at the end?

“DEATH PANELS, DEATH PANELS, DEATH PANELS!!! Rapier is going to defend death panels!”

Simmer down.

Now…stop using cliches and answer the question.

Take, for instance, the Terri Schiavo case. Religious groups and conservatives lined up, ready for war, to keep her alive. Why?

“Because we value life, Rapier. We thought you did too.”

Poppycock. Everytime someone passes away, we console ourselves with phrases like, “They’ve gone on to a better place.” or “Well, I’m sure they are happier now that they can be with (insert whatever dead relative you like) again.”

Our basic belief system states that where we go after this life is better than where we are now. So why do we feel so morally obligated to sustain every life, even those that left to themselves would end-sending a spirit home to God? Yes, it’s a question dealing with absolutes, but it deserves to be asked.

“But Rapier, God is the one who provided the technology to keep those people alive.”

God also provided the technology for the internet. Does that mean God wants us all to sit around viewing porn?

Terri Schiavo’s life, if left in God’s hands, would have ended. I know the machines were only providing life sustaining nourishment. But be honest, based on what we believe about the afterlife, is keeping her hooked to that machine really what God wanted for her? I’m sorry, I don’t think so.

But back to the point, how much money was spent keeping her alive? Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Do you want to know why our healthcare costs will never go down? Because we the living can’t accept losing a loved one to death. According to a study in Forbes magazine, 30% of all Medicare spending is spent on patients who die within the year. One third of that spending is accrued in the last month of life. Furthermore, approximately 5% of the population is responsible for 50% of the medical spending. To exacerbate the problem, we are an enterprising nation that finds new and unique ways to keep people alive…for a price.

See, this argument about Obamacare is politically motivated and moot. Republicans would like us all to forget that the reason Obamacare got any traction in the first place is because healthcare costs were already ballooning out of control. The real issue here is what are we willing to pay for?

Now trust me, I know how uncomfortable this topic is. When my mother got her cancer diagnosis, she underwent a large variety of treatments. All of which were very expensive. But at the end of the day, she lived one month longer than the doctors suggested she would when they originally found the tumors.

I would do anything to have my mom here with me today. I miss her terribly. But would she have wanted me and my family to mortgage all of our futures on just a chance that we could keep her for a year, three years, a decade? Because don’t forget, she would have eventually left us anyway. That’s just reality. You can out run death only for so long. That’s the way God designed it.

Now for those that cannot bring themselves to make the call on whether certain treatments should be given or withheld based on a person’s health and age, that’s fine. I completely understand. I really do.

But I’m going to require you to give up your moral high ground when it comes to calling for lower healthcare costs. Because unless someone is willing to be the bad guy and say, “No, I’m sorry but you can’t have every possible medical alternative available provided to you at no cost,” then the problem of rising healthcare costs is never going away. Regardless of what happens with Obamacare.

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How Vegas Can Prepare You for the Birth of a Child

For those finding this post without any prior reference, we are finishing a three-part blogging extravaganza of my recent signing tour throughout the state of Utah. If you missed the first two parts…don’t worry, they weren’t that exciting. Just kidding. They can be found on this same blog if you just keep scrolling down. By the way, the only advertisement for THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER in this post will be taken care of right now.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, on sale now wherever fine LDS books are sold…unless they are out, in which case it is available on-line at the links located above. It is also available on Kindle for $3.99. Now we’re done.

Anyway, after my trip to Provo and my visit with Mike Jennings, I spent Tuesday night quietly at home. Or rather my brother’s home. I mention this only because it allows me to post a picture of the cutest kid under the age of one. Why? Because I spent Tuesday night babysitting my nephew, Oscar.

(Disclaimer: The official rankings of Cutest Kid Under the Age of One officially shifted this past week and Oscar is now number 2. We will cover this more fully in a bit. It’s nothing personal, and I mean really, how “official” are these rankings anyway. End of Disclaimer.)

(New Disclaimer: These rankings are VERY official. I take them very seriously. End of New Disclaimer.)

Anyway, here is a picture of my very cute nephew hawking my book for me.

OscarThey say you should use beautiful women, cuddly animals or cute kids to sell your product. Well, my nephew Oscar certainly qualifies.

So Oscar and I bonded and I even managed to get my brother’s dog, Stanley, to not howl in protest at my presence. All in all, a successful evening.

On Wednesday morning, I once again traveled to downtown Salt Lake and to Eborn Books where I met up with Nick Galieti. Nick is an LDS author who has started his own podcast where he interviews other LDS authors. I had never been on a podcast before and found the experience to be quite fun. If I could do podcasts all day to promote my book, I would sign up for that in a heartbeat. For those interested in hearing said podcast, follow this link and take a listen. (As another aside, Eborn books is COOL!!! For those who grew up in the Gila Valley, remember when the Safford Dance Academy used to be JC Pennys with the three stories and awesome stairs? This building is very similar only it’s filled with books. Imagine that for a moment…Uh-huh, like I said, AWESOME!)

Thursday marked the end of my time in SLC. Everytime I say goodbye to my brother and his family, it makes me a little sad because we never know exactly when we’ll get to see each other again. But eventually, I did pull away and set off on the six hour drive to Las Vegas.

“Las Vegas, you say? I thought your next signing was in St. George.”

Okay, you caught me. My next signing was scheduled for St. George, but not until Saturday. So to pass the time, three of my best friends (and a couple of their wives) agreed to put their lives on hold for a few days while they came up to meet me in Sin City. The plan was to spend Thursday evening watching the Broncos game, then getting up at 4 a.m. in order to make a 6:40 tee time in Mesquite, NV, an hour and a half away.

I’ll pause here for a moment while everyone gets their “What kind of morons are you?” comments out of the way.

Are we done? No? Okay, I’ll give you a few more seconds.

Fine, we are now moving on. Finding a good place to watch a football game on the strip in Vegas is harder than you think. We initially got a table at a sports bar and grill inside the New York, New York casino, but they were requiring a $15 an hour minimum per person. When the game was delayed by lightning for almost 45 minutes, we each finished our paltry appetizer and got the heck out of there before we got fleeced any further. (By the time the game actually finished, we figured we would have been on the hook for $75 a piece. Not money well spent.) But before we left, I got this picture and caption:

RestaurantMy Boys!!! Since my wife couldn’t come with me on the tour, Heath, Justin and Dan made the ultimate sacrifice and came up to watch the NFL opener in Vegas and then golf the next day in Mesquite. Now those are good friends!!!

Apparently, Heath’s sister-in-law saw the post and alerted his wife, Timi that I had referred to them as ‘My Boys’ in the post. She then let Heath know and I took grief for that decision for the following three days.

Before moving to the golf the next day, I have one thing I need to mention. If you ever have the opportunity to stay at the Trump International in Vegas, think about it long and hard. (I put that last line in, in honor of my friend, Spencer Bigler who will undoubtedly put that line together with what I’m about to share. Missed you, Spence.)

If you don’t pay extra for the room that faces the strip, you will wind up with a room that has a view of about 7 strip clubs in a row, including the museum that contains (according to them, we did not find out for ourselves) the largest exhibit of erotic artifacts. Go Team. Added to that wonderful view was the fact that our room also faced a train track. At 11:30 that night, just a mere half hour after we got to bed and a mere four-and-a-half hours before we had to get up, a train blew its whistle and it sounded like it was right in the room with us. It was unbelievable. It was even more unbelievable an hour later when it happened again. Fortunately for Heath and Justin, they fell asleep almost instantly and never heard a thing. Dan and I were not so lucky.

Golf the next day was enjoyable. I will not bore everyone with a play by play, but I will say that Sand Hollow Golf Club in Hurricane, UT is amazing…as long as you are not there in the middle of a lightning storm. If that is the case, it can also be a little scary. This we did learn by experience. However, it was so cool I wanted to include it, and its majestic red rocks, in the photo tour. Sadly, the photo does not even come close to doing it justice.

Sand Hollow

Saturday, after the four of us stayed the night at the Crystal Inn in St. George, along with a women’s college volleyball team, a tennis team and…some other team, I was ready for my last signing at Barnes and Noble in St. George. (By the way, I thought girls were supposed to lose their giggliness during high school. Based on the amazing amount of giggling heard in the hallways until all hours of the night, I was apparently mistaken.)

The signing at St. George was great. I met some really nice people, got to catch up with a childhood family friend and even got to meet the man who trained Justin Layton in the mission field. For those who don’t know Justin, suffice it to say that I got to meet somebody you probably don’t know and probably can’t be connected to you in any way.

Meanwhile, the guys stopped by and Heath captured this picture of us sitting near the Barnes and Noble entrance.

Heath and Ryan2

Before anyone else can say it, yes I know, that is one shiny, bald head. I’ve come to grips with it and there is no joke out there I haven’t heard.

Anyway, time is running short and word count is running long so I will suffice it to say, the rest of the trip went, golf, night in Vegas (four middle-aged Mormon guys dead tired from getting no sleep and playing too much golf does not actually create the wild funfest one would assume for a Saturday night in Vegas.), incredibly long drive home the next day.

As we were nearing the Gila Valley, we ran into one of the heaviest rainstorms I can remember. It was intense with water running through the train tracks because it had washed out the berm they sat on. It was good to know that fasting and prayer still appear to get results.

As a final note, four days later, Shannon and I trekked it down to Mesa and welcomed our fifth child. Since her arrival, I am being reminded that my next to no sleep night in Vegas the previous Thursday was just a warm-up for what we are experiencing now.  Good thing she looks like this.

Maggie

World, welcome Maggie Shannon Rapier. She’s here to take you by storm. And if driving for approximately 34 hours the week before wasn’t enough, I decided to try and be a good dad and booked it back to Thatcher following Maggie’s birth at 1:30 p.m. in order to be there for my oldest daughter, Abby’s first football game as a member of the THS Spirit Line. I still haven’t decided if that was dedication or just plain silliness. Anyway, to close, I will leave you with a picture of my oldest and my youngest. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Abby was the size Maggie is now. Being a dad is great, but the time sure does go quickly.

Abby Maggie

 

 

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Pinning the Tail on the Donkey of Life

This entry is officially the second installment of what is shaping up to be a three part recap of my signing tour for THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER. But because of a few things that occured during this stretch, it may come across as a little philosophical at times. Most middle sections of a trilogy end up being the portion of the story where the bad guys get the upper hand and the heroes take it on the chin. Well, Darth Vader didn’t appear and single-handedly destroy a book signing or anything, but I had the opportunity to talk with some people I hadn’t seen in some time and reflect on the twists and turns life has thrown at us. And in some ways, it could seem that the “bad guys” have gotten some pretty good licks in.

I realize the above paragraph probably makes no sense to anyone. But it does to me and since this blog serves a double purpose as my journal, I’m going to leave it in. And above all, I want to express how grateful this stretch of the signing tour meant to me, even though I didn’t necessarily sell the lights out of my book.

So let’s begin where we left off.

Once I had ventured down to Temple Square to get my inappropriate picture with the Emma and Joseph statue, I headed over to the Barnes and Noble in Sugarhouse. My signing started at noon and because I am an extremely nervous person, I arrived at every signing at least twenty minutes early. (In truth, I got to The King’s English signing a full hour early and sat across the street at a little deli for half an hour trying to calm my nerves.)

Anyway, as I walked up to the Barnes and Noble entrance, I was met with by the following poster:

B&N Window Photo

I don’t care who you are, that is pretty cool to see for the first time. So once I had floated back down to earth, I entered the store and got set up for the signing. And that’s when reality set in.

I didn’t know anyone and there were no guarantees that I was going to sell a single book. I tried to make eye contact with every person coming through the door, but most of them could sense my presence like zebras sensing danger in the African veldt and made a beeline for the opposite side of the store even though they may have come strictly for the book located 10 feet behind me.

Finally, after about 20 minutes, a very nice man by the name of Wayne Lee walked over and struck up a conversation with me. He is looking to start a film society in Salt Lake and is looking for all kinds of stories. We talked for about five to ten minutes and then he agreed to purchase my book. I wanted to get up and hug him, but I worried that might come off as a bit desperate and might make him second guess his desire to purchase the book. But bottom line, the day was not going to be a complete washout.

And it only got better from there. I had several conversations with some very interesting people and several more copies of my book left the store with my name inscribed inside. Then suddenly, a nice older couple walked directly to my table. When the woman spoke, there was definitely something familiar about her voice. Come to find out, her name was Linda Layton Norton and she is the sister to a gentleman I home teach as well as the sister to another kind lady in my ward, and their voices sound almost exactly the same. After a little more conversation, we discovered that her husband, Riley Norton, happened to be the uncle to a couple of my best friends from high school. While I was talking to them, another familiar face appeared. Anna Schnebly Warne and I attended EAC together and she drove down with a friend who also had ties to the Gila Valley to attend my signing as well. Of course we then had to do the Gila Valley geneology matching game, but it was a very nice conversation and it was so good to meet and see all of them. I was so overcome, I made them all pose for a picture.

B&N Signing

So special thanks to the Nortons, to Anna and to her friend for a nice break in the day to help move the time along.

Another very interesting thing that happened at the signing was I met a woman named Michelle Thompson who drove a fair distance to meet me. She read the review of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER in the Deseret News and thought it sounded very interesting to her. We talked for a good while and she mentioned that she hoped she liked the book. If she did, she would definitely share it with her friends. She then mentioned another book that she really enjoyed, HEART IN THE RIGHT PLACE, by Carolyn Jourdan. Apparently she has given away over 27 copies of that book because she loves it so much. I told her I would look into it. However, following our conversation, Michelle went off shopping again and then when she checked out about 15 minutes later, she walked back over to my table and handed me a copy of that book. After she left, I wasn’t sure if she was just letting me know they had a copy or if she had actually purchased it for me. Come to find out she had purchased it for me. I was shocked. So if by chance Michelle is reading this, thank you so very much. I am enjoying the book immensely and will recommend it to others as well.

The three hours I was scheduled to be at B&N ended up flying by. I sold every copy of my book except one and had a blast. And as an added bonus, I didn’t have another signing scheduled for almost two and a half days so I could finally relax and breathe.

Sunday: Sleeping, Sacrament Meeting, Sleeping, Golf on TV, Temple Square. Pretty good Sunday. But I do have to show you the back window of the chapel where I attended church. I took this picture during the opening hymn. I know that is really bad, but I couldn’t help myself. (I did take the picture on the sly.)

Window

Monday morning, I had a good amount of time to kill so I got up and made my way over to the flagship store of Deseret Book across from Temple Square. I arrived about 10 minutes before they opened and so I waited outside holding my big ol’ poster. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but thankfully, there were not many people around. Anyway, when the doors opened, I went in and explained what I wanted to do.

They are a very serious group there at the flagship store. After I made my request, the two clerks up front looked at each other with deer-in-the-headlight expressions and then said they would need to check with a manager. I guess they don’t get many requests to take ridiculous pictures from weird, bald authors. Anyway, we finally located Travis and he was pretty cool about the whole thing (although I will say, he is the only person in the store who actually smiled. I hope I was not the cause of a general uneasiness throughout the store.) and we got the following picture and caption.

DB Temple Square

Travis and I had a mild disagreement about how prominently my poster should be displayed at Deseret Book’s flagship store across from Temple Square. I thought the front window. He thought not at all.

(Big thanks to Travis and the staff for letting me interrupt
their morning.)

 

They were all really good sports and the picture we got ended up being one of my favorites.

That night, I was scheduled for my third signing at Weller’s Book Works at Trolley Square next to the campus of the University of Utah. As the time for the signing drew near, it occured to me that a signing scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Labor Day night at a mall that was scheduled to shut down at 6:00 p.m. might not work out too well. Shockingly, it didn’t.

But that ended up being a blessing in disguise. (I’m fairly certain the people who had to work the event instead of getting the night off didn’t see it that way, but…) About five minutes after it was scheduled to begin, my mission president’s wife came in. Of all the people I have ever known, Sister Clegg is the closest thing to a second mother I have ever had. I absolutely love her. And because no one else was there, I was able to talk with her for about 15 minutes uninterrupted. I was so grateful to catch up and as we talked, I realized a truth that I’ve been learning over and over again ever since my mission ended. No one is immune from life. Even those you idealize. If you see this, Sister Clegg, thank you so much for coming. It was one of the greatest highlights of my trip.

Tuesday, after stopping off for a session in the Jordan River temple, I traveled to Springville for the first opportunity to meet all of the people I had worked with at Cedar Fort Publishing via e-mail for the last nine months. It was awesome. I enjoyed putting names to faces and Kelly, Alissa and the entire team were so kind to take a few moments out of their busy day and make me feel welcome. A big thank you to them.

After that, I was off to the BYU bookstore on BYU campus. I had one more picture idea in mind and really wanted to pull it off if possible. Little did I know that I was venturing into Cougar country on the first day of classes for BYU. But thanks to a couple of good sports, I will still able to get this picture.

BYU BookstoreI thought a man was free to sport his colors anytime, anywhere. Apparently, Ryan (the guy behind me) felt the BYU bookstore on the first day of classes should be a first amendment-free zone.

I also happened to run into Jillian Innes. I think it may have been a little shocking to run into a member of her old home ward’s bishopric in the middle of the campus bookstore with him wearing an ASU shirt. Sorry Jillian. Also, I was able to purchase a gift for my daughter Abby who is convinced she is going to attend BYU later in life. We’ve tried to talk reason to her, but so far…unsuccessful.

That afternoon, I had my second ‘this made the entire trip worth it by itself’ moment in two days. Via facebook, I connected with Michael Jennings, the first Assistant to the President I had as a young missionary in England. He happened to be in SLC just for the day and we were able to meet up and talk for about an hour. It was incredible to talk with him and reflect on how our lives had turned out vs. what we had thought they would be when we were young and impressionable missionaries. We also caught up on other missionaries we had served with that we had some knowledge about. It was one of the best hours spent in Utah. Thanks for reaching out to me,Mike, I hope you found it as totally worth it as I did.

As we were wrapping up our visit in the middle of a parking garage, I had the presence of mind to stop someone so that we could get a picture. I learned something very valuable from that experience. If you have the feeling that the person you are asking to take a picture might not handle an iPhone camera very well, listen to your instincts. This picture was the best we could get out of the three or four attempts made. But at least there is photographic evidence that the meeting occured. So I suppose I should be happy with that.

Jennings

We have now gone well past the point of reasonable post length. In a few days, I will finish up the trip and maybe even introduce you to my new daughter who is scheduled to show up tomorrow.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER…it’s still available in all the same places. Go get it if you haven’t already.

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How To Make Memories and Blow Through an Oil Change

I’m exhausted.

I mean, seriously exhausted.

I got home two days ago and I still could go lay down and take a three hour nap without batting an eye. (Well, I suppose I would have to bat both eyes, wouldn’t I? Oh be quiet. You know what I mean.)

But then, I did travel almost three thousand miles, signed books at five different locations, guested on a podcast, baby sat my nephew whom I don’t get to see nearly enough, visited two temples I’ve never been to before, spent two nights with friends in Vegas, golfed one of the most beautiful courses set out amongst the stunning red rocks near St. George, annoyed multiple staff members at Deseret Book stores all across the western United States, caught up with multiple friends I haven’t seen in upwards of 20 years, and spent literally hours trying to facebook the whole thing using only my smart phone.

It’s been a busy 11 days.

To try and document everything from the whole book signing tour for THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER (TRB) would be impossible. So I’m not going to try. I thought about going day by day, but…no. So instead, I will hit as many of the highlights as I can before I hit a word limit that makes a blog post completely unmanageable. (Shut up everybody who immediately thought, “What’s he talking about? Every post he has is unmanageable.”) It may take more than one post, but we’ll see how far we get. So, beginning from the beginning, here we go.

Several months ago, I requested four signings at Deseret Book (DB) locations. When all was said and done, only Patty Tanz, the manager of the Mesa Temple location agreed to have me come. And we sold a ton of books. As a little bit of a rebellious subversion, I decided that when I left for Utah, I would stop at several DB locations along the way, take a silly picture with the staff that included my TRB poster and post them on facebook. That way, I could get at least a little bit of social media publicity from DB whether they liked it or not. The only catch was whether or not staff members at each location would be willing to take part. My first test came when I hit Mesa and tried out my plan at the Gilbert Road location.

Now, what I decided to do was make sure that the book was on the shelves before approaching the staff about the picture. So I wandered the store until I found it and then I picked up a copy and headed toward the registers. As I approached, the woman behind the counter asked if I needed any assistance. I held up the book and said, “Well, see I’m…”

That was as far as I got before she said, “Oh my gosh, you’re the author.”

Talk about a shot of confidence to kick off the tour. It was certainly a better response than the one that would come later in the week when I would see someone at a signing and they would ask, “You’re an author???”

Anyway, the Gilbert Road location staff was awesome and before I knew it, we had a customer taking this picture which I posted on facebook along with the accompanying blurb.

GilbertWell the book signing tour is officially underway. However the staff at Deseret Book on Gilbert Road doesn’t seem to think it got off to as rousing a start as I did. Can’t figure out why. Whatever! On To Vegas!

(Special thanks to Lori, Diana and Cheri For letting some random author come in and interrupt their day.)

Cheri was the lady who recognized me and she had actually been intrigued by the book when it had arrived in their store. She got a copy and had already read the entire thing. She was very complimentary. It quite literally made my day.

After leaving Gilbert, I began the very…verrrryyyyy long drive from Phoenix to Vegas. At one point, I happened upon what looked like a cell phone tower with a big sign attached that could be seen from quite a distance. All the sign said was, “Nothing.”

I looked around at that point in the drive and had to concur. There literally was nothing for miles in every direction.

That night when I hit Vegas, I detoured off my path to find the Henderson Seagull Books location. (Seagull also would not entertain any signings.) When I finally found the store, it was completely empty other than the two employees on duty. I explained what I wanted to do, but for the scenario I had worked out, I needed three people. So I ended up browsing their store for upwards of half an hour before someone finally walked in. But when they did, we got the following picture. I have included its facebook blurb as well.

HendersonIn preparation for Salt Lake City, I decided to try out my aggressive marketing techniques. I don’t think Julie in the Henderson, Nevada Seagull Book location approves. 

(Big thanks to Julie and Steve for letting me intrude on their evening.)

Sadly, my ego quickly lost all its mojo from earlier in the day as neither Steve nor Julie had heard of my book.

After getting the picture, I really had nothing else scheduled for the evening except…getting my hands on my first Chipotle burrito of the trip.

I did. And it awesome!!! And needless to say, it would not be my last during my travels.

The next morning, the driving began again. It didn’t take long to realize that I was going to get sick of my truck before too much longer. Also, I was very frustrated that the syncing operation I had performed earlier in the week with my wife’s iPod was not more successful. There is no way in $&@* that some of those songs would have survived had I fully known what I was doing. Don’t get me wrong, I am a child of the 80s and I love nostalgia as much as the next guy, but even the greatest decades have things that occured we would just as soon forget. Not the least of which is 967-5309 or Jessie’s Girl. I quickly hit the next button on the iPod, but the real point here is, I shouldn’t have had to.

Anyway, I arrived in St. George around 11:00 in the morning on a Friday. Stopping in at the local DB, I was stunned at how busy it was. I almost chickened out on asking if I could get a picture. But then I spotted a friendly looking guy whom I approached with my request. Turns out he was the manager. And he said, “No problem.” So we got the following shot which I immediately facebooked with the following blurb.

St. GeorgeI really thought my poster would be a nice addition to the portrait wall they have at the St. George Deseret Book location. Paul did not agree. I think he may have been influenced by Jennie Hansen’s review of TRB in yesterday’s Meridian Magazine article.

(A big thank you to Paul and his staff for taking time out to put up with me.)

The day before, I had been the review of the week in Meridian Magazine. Now while the reviewer, Jennie Hansen, did say some complimentary things about TRB, she did state that she was not a big fan of some of the characters. Being the snarky individual that I am, I couldn’t help but then use it as a reference. Might as well get what mileage I can out of a review that felt more like a flogging. (Just kidding. Please don’t tell Jennie Hansen I said that.)

That night was the first of my five signings. It was held at The King’s English Bookshop which is a really cool independant bookstore in the Sugarhouse section of Salt Lake City. It’s very eclectic and eccentric. A book lover’s dream.

Sadly for me, it also happened to be a Friday night at the beginning of Labor Day weekend. Not the busiest time for eclectic/eccentric bookstores. Also, this signing turned out to be a reading as well. We ended up with nine in the audience and I read some passages, talked about my inspirations for the book and ended up selling a couple. (Shannon’s cousin who came had already purchased the book.) But the real highlight of the evening was catching up with Shannon’s cousin, Jason and Marcellus Barrus. Marcellus and I served together on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales and had not seen each other in about 20 years. I was highly impressed that he would come and take a few moments to catch up. It definitely was one of the highlights of my trip.

(A quick aside. Marcellus Barrus is the reason I have Missionary Man by the Eurythmics on my iPod. One time when we were doing service as missionaries, he convinced the lady in charge of our service project that it was okay to listen to that song because it was talking about us. He then proceeded to bust out his dance moves to that song. Boy had some serious moves.)

At the end of the signing, I got a quick pic with the staff at King’s English. They were all so nice and couldn’t have been more supportive.

Kings EnglishSuper big thanks to Meagan, Helen and all of the staff at The King’s English Bookshop. Thanks for providing such an enjoyable evening. 

Following the signing, I realized I had been so nervous that I had not eaten since breakfast. I had a serious heart to heart with Siri and found out I was only a couple blocks from the nearest Chipotle. Burrito number two was soon consumed.

The next morning, I had some time to kill before my signing at Barnes and Noble. I decided to get up and see what interesting picture I could manufacture before making my way to the store. The best I could come up with was this following.

Emma and Joseph“Emma, I know we’ve both been gone for a number of years but I just had to tell you about this book, The Reluctant Blogger. It’s amazing!!!”

Too much??? Maybe, but how many other authors have an endorsement like that? Uh-huh. I thought so. 

Talking to my wife later, she suggested that , yes, it was too much. And thus I provide the latest in a long string of evidences that prove it is always best to travel with my wife if possible so things like this don’t happen.

Well, we have now reached the point where this is an officially long post. So we will pause here and return with more at a later date.

But don’t forget that THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER remains available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and Deseretbook.com. It also is available wherever LDS books are found. (And it’s $3.99 on Kindle.) So if you don’t have a copy yet, or you know someone who should have a copy but doesn’t…you know what to do.

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